A Visit to The Charming Painted Ladies of Grimsby, Ontario

These colourful themed cottages celebrate everything from whimsical treasures of the sea to sweet cotton candy.

Ladies, take a bow! The spotlight of the world is on you! Applause rings out for the preening ladies striking poses—saucy, flirty and beguiling in their own quirky ways. Their frocks suggest another era, whimsical, each ablaze in glorious colours, each adorned with trinkets, especially from the sea; anchors, shells and cutouts of mermaids flaunt their eccentricity. Their very presence brings a smile to the heart. What a performance!

These are the Painted Ladies of Grimsby, quietly making a name for themselves just steps from the historic Grimsby Beach area on Lake Ontario. They are a collection of quaint cottages resurrected with inspiration, tender loving care and gallons of colourful paint. Although no two cottages are alike, most have gingerbread trim and fancy facades.

Painted Ladies Grimsby - Cotton Candy HousePhoto: Marlene Castura
The Cotton Candy House

Touring the Painted Ladies of Grimsby

We stroll along Auditorium Circle and talk to a homeowner putting the finishing touches of paint on the pickets of her fence—the pickets are fashioned like pencils. Her home is a two-storey dollhouse with a wide veranda. It features white wicker furniture covered with plump, aqua cushions and coral-coloured throws. A painted shed in her side yard, a replica of her home, is a treasure she discovered online. The woman is generous with her time, answering questions and sharing her passion with us.

The Cotton Candy Home is nearby, where another proud homeowner asks us where we’re from. “Hamilton,” we say, “just down the road.” This woman describes a unique game she has created for her visiting grandchildren. She has photographed unique decorative items on neighbouring homes. When her grandchildren visit, she sends them on scavenger hunts looking for these items. Who has the most fun with this game, the creator or the participants? If you live in the Cotton Candy House, you have to be a special person. All the homeowners on Auditorium Circle and the surrounding area have bought into a dream and made it come true. They’ve rescued tired, old cottages and restored them to their former glory.

Painted Ladies Grimsby - Mermaid HousePhoto: Marlene Castura
Mermaids and treasures from the sea adorn the property of another Painted Lady

The Painted Ladies of Grimsby have a unique history

This area once offered a summer destination for city dwellers in the 1840s who arrived by ferry from Hamilton and Toronto. Pilings from the pier show the landing spots of the ferry boats in the water. The Methodist Church had a popular camp in this area as early as 1846, and later built an enormous auditorium called The Temple in the parkland setting of Auditorium Circle. Cottages soon popped up, replacing tents in the camp. These cottages were decorated in Victorian splendour with a playful charm.

At the turn of the 20th century a more casual secular atmosphere replaced the solemnity of the area. The place changed hands and a roller coaster, carousel, even a “movie theatre” created an exciting place for family fun. But this carnival ambiance faded in the 1930s with the creation of a new gravel highway stretching from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Orchards with peach, cherry and apple trees dotted the new highway.

Changes are inevitable but traces of the Methodist camp can still be detected in this Grimsby Beach area. Bell’s Park is home to the old iron bell made to be part of the Temple; the stone monument in the centre of the Circle commemorates the camp’s existence; even the street names, Temple Lane and Auditorium Circle, are throwbacks to the Methodist camp. And the Ladies, the Painted Ladies of Grimsby, have refreshed themselves with old Victorian charm. Ladies, you dazzle! We applaud you.

Next, check out these 10 great day trips from Hamilton.

Originally Published in Our Canada